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Jurgen Klopp urges Marko Grujic to curb “lazy” defensive approach

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Jurgen Klopp has addressed Marko Grujic‘s knack for producing late challenges, insisting the Liverpool midfielder needed to avoid being “lazy.”

The Serbian spent the majority of last season sidelined with a troubling hamstring injury, but returned to Klopp’s first-team squad for the closing stages.

Grujic was criticised for a strong tackle that left Crystal Palace centre-back James Tomkins injured in May, and then picked up a suspension for two yellow cards at the summer’s European U21 Championship.

Lining up for the Reds this pre-season, the 21-year-old provoked ire from Palace manager Frank de Boer for a lunge at Wilfried Zaha, with the Dutchman saying it was “not appropriate.”

Addressing that challenge and Grujic’s questionable approach off the ball, Klopp agreed that this was a flaw in his game.

“I didn’t see it properly at the time but I heard it could have been a red card,” he told the Liverpool Echo.

“That’s not good. For Marko, it’s something that he has to change.

“He’s a fantastic player, a really skilled boy. Tall, quick, talented footballing wise, all good.

“But in these defensive situations, you always need to be early enough there so you are close enough to make a challenge and not a foul.”

HONG KONG, CHINA - Saturday, July 22, 2017: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the Premier League Asia Trophy final match between Liverpool and Leicester City at the Hong Kong International Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This is something Klopp is not only looking for Grujic to improve, using 18-year-old right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold as another example from training.

While on the Reds’ tour of Hong Kong, Klopp said the youngster “defends like a kid and attacks like man,” and continued to relay this to the Echo.

“I said it to the players after a session when we had a little situation with Divock [Origi] and Trent,” he added.

“It’s about coming too late, switching off the machine, trying to sort a situation in which you were late in mind. I hate that.

“When that happens you need to run, not foul. Make more steps, go, go, go. For me it’s always a bit lazy.”

Grujic has found himself in the margins since making the £5.1 million move from Red Star Belgrade in 2016, but can hope for a strong campaign in 2017/18.

The midfielder has clearly settled in well with the group, and particularly fellow Balkan duo Dejan Lovren and Lazar Markovic, after a year spent adjusting on Merseyside.

But while he has proved his potential as a top-class midfielder, Grujic is clearly still a work in progress.

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